Interview:: Samuel Lunsford (The Young Sinclairs/Eternal Summers)

Roanoke, Virginia’s The Young Sinclairs first appeared in the pages of PARASITES & SYCOPHANTS over three years ago. The band is back and set to release their new odds and ends digital LP “Don’t Believe In Demos Vol. 1” (Planting Seeds Records). Sinclairs vocalist/guitarist/primary songwriter Samuel Lunsford sat down with P&S for a detailed look at his musical beginnings: the formation of his 60’s psych/indie band & Virginia based collective – the Magic Twig Community –to highly successful tours with The Brian Jonestown Massacre & The Lovetones – to last summer’s sudden mental breakdown.

As an introduction, tell us where your interest in music began. Did you grow up in a musical family?

I grew up in a VERY musical household, with the biggest of these family influences being my older brother, Joseph: my parents bought him a drum-set when he was 6 or 7, and he kept it in his room and would bang on it all the time – the folks were kind enough to let him play those drums pretty much whenever he wanted, within reason. He was amazing even back then, and he still is. He is also a brilliant guitarist and a badass rock & roll vocalist – excellent songwriter and arranger, too. My mother, Carol, plays the piano (among other things) really well and can sing like a bird – mostly classical and gospel and a little folk music – she is classically trained, can sight-read sheet music, and has perfect pitch. Her mother was a Baptist minister and brought her up singing in the choir and even tried to push her to eventually be the musical director of the church, which she never did. Also, both of my mom’s brothers, Michael and Terry, are great drummers. She even had an uncle named Reed who was a somewhat legendary big-band jazz drummer locally. My father, John, played clarinet in school – later switched to sax – he also plays a little guitar and can hold down a beat on the drums pretty well. He is self-taught and therefore kind of shy and self-effacing about his abilities, but he is a very creative thinker and has a deep love and appreciation of music. He always had a huge and very diverse collection of albums and CD’s – I can remember being a very, very little boy and flipping through his vinyl and kind of being mystified by it all. So there was music around me everywhere from the beginning – being played, being sung, or being listened to on the stereo – it has just always been there.

We noticed you play a slew of instruments from 12-string acoustic/electric guitar, bass, to even sitar. At what age were you when you played your first musical instrument?

Picture this: I mean I’m 3 or 4 years old and there’s a full drum set and an upright piano at my disposal…they were kind of like next-level toys that I had to really be respectful of. My dad had a couple electric guitars and a small amp or two – eventually I was allowed to play with those. The drums were the first instrument I tackled – almost by default – being that they were my brother’s first as well. He is only 3 years older than me, so I would watch him and listen to him and I just got it in my head that “Hey…if my brother can do that, then I must be able to do it too…it can’t be that hard”, you know, so after he got done playing I would have a seat on the throne and thrash away like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t even use my feet at first! I didn’t know how to! I didn’t even necessarily have any musical aspirations at that point – it was just another activity for me, like basketball or riding bikes or Hide-And-Go-Seek. I don’t know what happened but eventually I decided that I really wanted to get serious about this drumming business – I wanted to be able to play them good like my brother could – I wanted him and everyone to take me seriously and not laugh at me and tell me to shut up when I got behind the kit! So one day my dad showed me the basic 4/4 rock & roll kick-snare beat, and told me “if you can play this beat you can play anything”, you know, “it all comes from this – you can play just about any song with this beat”…so I would sit down in the basement and practice and practice, just playing alone or sometimes playing along with the radio. At that point I wasn’t taking lessons or anything, I refused to do so, though my brother was taking drum lessons every week at Kelley’s Music down the street from our house. Well after a while I got pretty good at the drums. But now my brother was playing guitar! And he was good at that too! So I’m like, “Shit! I’ve got to keep up here!” My dad had a black Telecaster with a white pickguard, I’ve still got that guitar to this day, that was the guitar I learned on. I remember being SO FRUSTRATED trying to play that damn thing – to the point of wanting to smash it to bits. I just didn’t understand…I didn’t understand the science behind it, how it worked. And – again – I refused to take lessons. My brother tried to show me some chords and stuff but I didn’t even understand how the frets worked… I finally figured out how to fret notes on a bass guitar that we had lying around, it was easier than the guitar for me, you know – only 4 strings, only one note at a time – so really I was able to play bass before the guitar. And I use the term “play” loosely! Well, flash-forward a few years later, after many hours of practice and playing along with records and radio and attempting to jam with other people – I was able to hold my own on the guitar, at least with rudimentary power chords and bar chords…I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I certainly couldn’t play any smokin’ leads or riffs – yet! From there I went on to experiment with whatever else we had around the house, from the piano to the saxophone, to even trying to learn how to scratch records on a turntable! Being that I “mastered” the drums first, it was easier for me to pick up other instruments – I would just apply my percussive knowledge and rhythmic sensibilities to whatever format I was working with. Harmonic and melodic knowledge came later, along with some very basic musical theory picked up from various sources such as music/band class at school, other musicians, guitar magazines with tablature, etc.

Growing up I had my sister to help discover new and exciting artists. Did your parents or family members taste in music/their record collection influence you on the styles/eras in music you would take a liking to?

Absolutely. My dad’s musical taste is very broad, bordering on eclectic. That’s why I’m so open-minded when it comes to musical styles – I truly like it all, everything under the sun – I don’t care what genre it is – if it’s good music I’m into it. He was the first person to expose me to R&B, Funk, Soul and Blues music – me and my brother were both James Brown and P-Funk fanatics when we were in elementary school! People thought we were nuts! Other things I remember my dad blasting on the stereo when I was little: Wilson Pickett, Rolling Stones, The Who, Black Crowes, R.E.M., The B-52’s, J. Geils Band, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Dire Straits, the list goes on and on…My mom was more into folky singer-songwriter stuff, classical, opera, jazz vocals, and gospel…but she was also pretty open-minded about music – except in the early-mid-90’s when me and my brother started seriously getting into Rap music (back then it was cool to call it “Rap”…nowadays it’s more P.C. to call it “Hip Hop”) – that freaked my mom out, she tried to stamp that one out, wouldn’t allow us to listen to it. Eventually she caved and let us get the albums and listen to them on our own stereos, just as long as we didn’t repeat any of the “nasty, filth-flarn filth” lyrics! We did anyway…at least out of earshot…

So with all this exposure to music, what were some of the bands that influenced you earlier on?

Honestly, I was born in 1985 so I was coming up in the early 90’s with all the “Alternative” music that was happening. My brother started playing with some other kids that were a little bit older than him in a band and they would practice in our basement all the time. They’d play lots of Nirvana songs, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Guns ‘N Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam. Sometimes they’d let me sit in on the drums for a song or two, let me sing some back-up vocals. I really appreciate them humoring me like that – cause I was just this really young kid trying to be cool like my brother and sort of being a tag-along. I think my brother was annoyed by it but his friends thought I was pretty cool being so young and getting into the music like that. In hindsight, it was really an amazing time – mainstream rock music was really changing, it was exciting. It was the glory days of college radio and MTV. Also you had all the incredible R&B and Rap music going on. The early to mid 90’s were wonderful. There was also this radio program on 96.3 WROV, which was the main rock station in town, called “Music Underground” that would come on late Monday night, I think from 10 to 1 A.M. I couldn’t stay up and listen because that was a school night so I would always record the show on a cassette while I slept – some nights my dad would come and flip the tape over for me. Then I’d listen to it all week, and that was the first time I heard bands like Pavement, Built To Spill, Guided By Voices, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and many many others. They had a drawing every week on the show, a contest sponsored by the local Record Exchange store that I won when I was in 4th grade – I got a $15 gift certificate to the store, I bought ‘The Crow’ soundtrack.

On that radio show was also where I first heard the legendary Roanoke band, Swank. I had never heard anything like that in my life, they really had an amazing unique sound, I’d never heard horns used in an alternative/punk setting like that, and also they did a lot of really funky shit – these guys could really play funk for real – and the fact that they were local guys made it really exciting. It was the first time actually hearing their music, though I had heard a buzz about them around town through my brother and his cool musician/skater friends – they were the “it” band locally at that time, no doubt about it – Swank was just the coolest. So I knew that they had a reputation of being cool – but when I actually heard them I was blown away, it was so good. I got to see them play quite a few times as well, and got to meet them – also later befriended some of them and even got to play music with them! I think I tripped them out – I was their youngest fan by a longshot – they were all like “who the hell is this little chubby weird kid that likes us so much?” Swank were local legends at that time – they influenced all of us.

Around 2004, you began playing drums with a band called 63 Crayons. Was that your first true taste of being in a touring/recording band (working band)?

No, I had been tagging along with my brother and his various outfits for years prior to that. One in particular being a ska/punk group who called themselves Dr. Teeth & The Elektrik Mayhem. They were friends of his who had lost their drummer to another band so they asked Joe to join. That was probably my first experience riding along to out-of-town shows, helping out with carrying equipment and merchandise and everything. Occasionally I would sit in with them. Everything I’d done up until that was all local gigs – they were the first band I had a connection to that had a van and were setting up tours and trying to go hard like that. After that I played drums and various electronic devices in a band called Riders Of The Mark, played guitar and screamed in a very short-lived group called The Reunion Blanket, and played drums and sang in a band with my brother called The Red Skulls! – they became The Lobsters after I quit (I was to later rejoin them playing organ). By the time I joined 63 Crayons I was somewhat of a veteran…

At what point did you decide you wanted to lead your own band and begin writing songs?

After the demise of Dr. Teeth & The Elektrik Mayhem – my brother had been writing tunes on guitar and singing and was ready to have a go at being a frontman – he was coming out from behind the drum kit for the first time. So I was backing him up on drums and vocals and we had the very talented Jason Garnett (formerly of Swank) on the bass – we made a hell of a rhythm section, and with my brother out front and ripping on the guitar we sounded like no other! After our friend Simon Nolen graduated from Temple University we got him on rhythm guitar, and that was The Red Skulls! We played hard, turbo-charged ’66 R&B with an edge. Our sound actually damn near bordered on what people might call “Pub Rock” or something – like the band Dr. Feelgood but not as swampy, a little less blues. We liked 60’s Northwest bands like The Sonics and The Wailers a lot. So I contributed lyrics to a few songs, and a little bit of music but Joe did most of the writing and arranging. Once again, seeing him come into his own like that and do the frontman thing really gave me the courage to want to give it a try. I hadn’t really put myself out like that before.

Now, I had been trying to write real songs with real lyrics since middle school during the peak of the Dave Matthews Band’s popularity. I was learning all the chords I could on an acoustic guitar and trying to write poetic love songs and impress girls with my sensitivity. This was around 1997 or so. I also was a Ben Folds Five fanatic at that time, and was trying to write stuff on piano too. Me and a friend of mine named Doug Scott were jamming a lot and trying to compose – just trying to hash it out, we were young and wanted to hone our chops. We were really impressed by people like Burt Bacharach.

Flash-forward to late 2004-early 2005: The Red Skulls have broken up. I’ve just moved back to Roanoke from Athens, GA. After withdrawing from college following one week of classes and bumming around Roanoke for about 6 months I moved down there in late Spring of 2004 to play drums with 63 Crayons and try and “make it” as a musician. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – I was only 19 and trying to figure myself out, figure the universe out. When I was down there I was living in a house with the leaders and founders of that band, Charlie Johnston and Suzanne Allison – both incredible songwriters. I really learned a lot about the craft and found a lot of inspiration in my time spent playing with them.

In January of 2005, me and my friends John Thompson and Daniel Cundiff went in on a practice space in an old warehouse on the outskirts of downtown Roanoke. At first we had nothing but a couple of mics, a drum kit, a Tascam 788 digital 8-track recorder, a Fender Rhodes, and some old guitars and amps. We hung out in the space just about every day and jammed and tried to record music – figuring it all out as we went along. We withdrew from everything, the space was our haven, our clubhouse and our sanctuary. We were being super creative and productive – we recorded A LOT. We also were hanging out and having a lot of fun, smoking pot and drawing graffiti on the walls, getting drunk and smoking cigarettes – we laughed A LOT.

Of all the stuff we were recording, and there was quite a bit, not much of it was actual songs with actual lyrics or vocals. A lot of it was just instrumental – or if there was vocals they were haphazard or basically just for a laugh. Well one day I came in the space and Daniel had recorded a real song that had real vocals and a real melody. It sounded great! Like some Olivia Tremor Control 4-track demos or something – I was knocked out. I was hearing this wash of background vocals in my head that I thought would sound good on there, so with Daniel’s permission I overdubbed some heavily-reverbed layered “Ahhhhh’s” over the track. It turned out really cool – the tune was called “Find It All Around”. Well after that it was on. I was super inspired to try and record more stuff like that – so I did. Melodic pop tunes heavily influenced by the sounds of the 60’s and the sounds of my friends.

In various interviews and biographies I’ve read on The Young Sinclairs, it states the band began in 2005. How did the members of The Young Sinclairs meet and what is the origins of the band name?

The project became fully formed in 2005 but the founding members had known each other prior to that. I met John Thompson in 2003 through a girl named Amanda Patterson, who he was dating at the time – she was a friend of mine, we hung out at parties together and had many mutual acquaintances – she brought him to a gig I was playing with The Riders Of The Mark at this place called The Bacchus Grille – that was the first time I met John. Later on, through him I met his pal Daniel Cundiff – they were super tight, they’d grown up in Franklin County together, their families knew each other. Me and Daniel hit it off right away – we connected with each other pretty much immediately. The three of us originated the things that were to become known as The Young Sinclairs and The Magic Community and The Mystic Fortress – it all started with me,John, and Daniel in a warehouse rehearsal space on Church Ave.

I came up with the name ‘The Young Sinclairs’. I was reading about John Sinclair in the book, ‘Please Kill Me’ – reading about the poem that he wrote to his nemesis, Warner Stringfellow, the narcotics officer who had busted him. John Sinclair was an interesting and inspiring character to me – a radical Detroit activist and eventual manager of The MC5, the authorities were just looking for any excuse to bust his ass and shut him up – which they did. They sentenced him to 10 years in prison for the possession of 2 marijuana cigarettes! So Sinclair decided to write ‘The Poem for Warner Stringfellow’ which went something like: “Warner, what are you gonna do when your kids smoke pot? What are you gonna do when all the lawyers in the world smoke pot?” – and right when I was reading that the name just popped into my head, “The Young Sinclairs”. So that’s the story and the history behind the name – the real reason we chose it is basically because it’s snappy and it sounds good. “The Young Sinclairs” – got a nice ring to it, eh? Everyone seemed to think so when I suggested it, so there you go.

At first we didn’t have a name when we began playing these songs that we had been writing. Songs like “I Don’t Know Why”, “This Tyme”, “Find It All Around”, “I Could Die” – these were the earliest songs we were playing together. We just thought they were good tunes and wanted to keep writing them and recording them and possibly play them live in front of people – we didn’t have any aspirations beyond that. So one night we played this party at a big house where our friend Bri was housesitting – just the 3 of us – we set up and played down in the basement. We were pretty ragged – it was rough. John was crushed the next day, thinking it had gone down abomb. But I remember thinking, “Hey, at least we did it”. I was happy that we had played the songs in public, played them somewhere beyond the walls of our space. We didn’t give up – we kept playing, we kept writing and recording – and we didn’t abandon the notion of playing live, we were looking for some real gigs. We were also looking for another guitar player to help fill out our sound so around this time John asked Sean Poff (they were both working at The Grand Theatre at the time) to come and jam with us sometime and gave him a CD-R with our music on it. Sean had seen us play at the party, and seemed interested – so he came to the space one night and sat in with us. I showed him the chords and we jammed on “Left And Right” and some other tunes and he fell right in perfectly.

Jonathan Woods, who plays keys with us currently, I knew from when I worked at The Record Exchange at Towers – I remember him coming in and shopping quite often, he later worked at another Record Exchange store with John and he still plays in The Sad Cobras with Daniel to this day. In 2006 The Young Sinclairs went out on the road with The Sad Cobras and I sat in on drums with them. Later on, Jonathan started playing with The Young Sinclairs after our keyboard player Jonathan Coward moved away.

Also written in all the band’s press releases is the mention of The Magic Twig Community (which features some great bands in Eternal Summers, The Missionaries, Sad Cobras, Boys Lie, etc.) Who is credited for the formation of this group of artists? Did this collective come together at the same time as the formation of the Young Sinclairs?

The truth is, “The Magic Community” is the name of a Myspace page that Daniel created. That’s how the name and everything came about – we didn’t all sit around and think about it, it wasn’t a calculated thing in that sense. The Young Sinclairs and The Sad Cobras had just done a small tour together and shortly after we got back, Daniel had created this Myspace page called “The Magic Twig Community”, comprised of those two bands plus other offshoots and side projects of members of those two bands. It eventually blossomed into a fledgling label with us putting out our own CD’s. It was basically all the members of The Sinclairs and The Cobras plus a few other people and we all played together and apart in various forms under different names. The Elephant 6 and Cloud Recordings operations are obvious reference points for this kind of collective and we were without question heavily influenced by them. This all happened about a year after the initial formation of The Young Sinclairs.

With the Magic Twig Community comes the Mystic Fortress which is where I’m told the majority if not all of the Sinclairs music has been recorded. I’ve gotten a sense from listening to your recorded output that there’s an extra added element in the sonic landscape of the tracks – a warm analog sound, that makes you really believe you are listening to a track recorded in the 60’s 70’s 80’s or present – a timeless quality. Were these recording techniques taught to you or was it more of the case of trial and error?

I’d say it has always been a little bit of both. My brother Joe is a brilliant recording engineer and mixer – he is very dedicated to the craft – and even went to school for it for a while, for what that’s worth. Me and John both learned quite a bit from him. The Mystic Fortress really was taken to the next level when Joe started coming down to the space and brought some of his recording equipment in there. He had this tube pre-amp he had built, and some decent microphones and stuff. Me and John had just been winging it, rigging stuff and using pretty ghetto techniques – but we were being really creative and getting cool results. Joe just came in and really took the recording quality to the next level – particularly when he brought in his reel-to-reel 1/4″ Otari 8-Track recorder! But, speaking for myself, a lot of what I do is techniques shown to me by Joe or by Charlie from 63 Crayons, who is a MASTER of the 4-track cassette recorder. Charlie can record a 4-track masterpiece with one SM57 and some guitar pedals – I’ve seen him do it. That man knows how to work a Portastudio! The early 63 Crayons recordings are unbelievable. A lot of it is trial and error though, absolutely. That’s why it was so cool in the early days of the space when we didn’t know what the hell we were doing and we were just cutting our teeth and recording sounds every day – just to do it – trying things and listening back and experimenting. That’s what it’s all about.

Speaking of sounds – The Young Sinclairs in recent reviews and features are most notably compared to The Byrds, The Church (especially the “Of Skins And Heart” + “The Blurred Crusade” eras) and early R.E.M, among others. In your mind are those accurate comparisons?

For a lot of our songs that we have released so far I would say yes, those are accurate reference points – obviously we touch on many other styles and sound techniques – but, particularly being that quite a bit of our material is based upon jangly 12-string arpeggio rock riffage, I agree that our music is similar to those artists – I will also admit that, as far as song composition, I have at times been directly influenced, heavily, by all three of those bands mentioned.

In the beginning was it a conscious effort to self-release all the Young Sinclairs albums via The Magic Twig Community imprint (ie: the Sinclairs debut LP “Feel Bad” – 2007) vs. shopping the band to outside labels?

Not necessarily – we would have been willing to let outside labels help us out, within reason. It was just easy and cheap for us to do things ourselves. Also, that gives you the most control and the highest profit margin, not like we really make much money selling music, but we just didn’t see any reason for us not to just try doing things on our own. And in the beginning stages of a musical project, you almost have no choice these days. You kind of have to do everything yourself if you’re just starting out – at least for a while – then hopefully someone will take notice and help you out. That’s what happened for us.

Kindercore Records has always been a favorite indiepop label to many music fans from the 90’s to the 2000’s – especially with a roster that featured The Essex Green, The Mendoza Line, Of Montreal, etc. In ’09 they released an Anthology of Sinclairs music titled “Songs Of The Young Sinclairs”. How did that deal come about?

We mailed them a CD of our first album, “Feel Bad”, which we had released on our own thanks to the generosity of our great friend Jonathan Ayer. Ryan Lewis contacted us online and apparently he was blown away. In fact, he once told us that the song “Engineer Man” completely knocked him out and was really the one that sealed the deal and made him want to sign us! He helped set us up a few shows in Athens, we went down there and met him and Dan and played with The Buddy System. We stayed in touch and, after a while of waiting and talking and negotiating, we had “The Songs Of The Young Sinclairs” pressed on vinyl! Our first record! I was ecstatic when I dropped the needle on that, believe me. Ryan and Dan are awesome guys, we look up to them. They’ve been doing their thing for a long time and we have nothing but respect for them.

Not long after the release with Kindercore, you reached deals with two Virginia based labels – Chimney Sweep Records (for the “Chimeys” 12” vinyl LP) and Planting Seeds Records (“We Spoke Our Minds” 7” vinyl EP). Did those agreements come about in the same manner as the Kindercore deal?

Those agreements came about when we were about to open some dates with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. We had known Josh from Chimney Sweep through other local musical acquaintances – they are based out of Blacksburg which is not far from Roanoke, we’ve played there a lot. John had just recorded his band, Mark Zander, at The Mystic Fortress through some negotiations with me – at the time, I was trying to be the “studio manager” – I have since given up on that role! We had met Neil and the Planting Seeds people when The Sinclairs opened some dates for The Lovetones, who had just released their “Dimensions” album. We hit it off and stayed in touch, so later when we were poised to open up for BJM, Neil called me and said he wanted to help us out. Josh and Neil are both super sweet, awesome people.

For the record what is the official discography of The Young Sinclairs?

‘Black Demos’ [CD-R] (self-released)
‘Sad Cobras/Young Sinclairs Split EP’ [CD-R] (self-released, contains “Canceled Flight”, “The Way You Are Inside”)
‘We Are Makin Music’ compilation [CD-R] (self-released, contains the song “Sleepyhead”)
‘Pyramid tour EP’ [CD-R] (self-released)
‘Ceto’s Return’ [CD-R] (self-released)
‘Feel Bad’ [CD] (self-released)
‘Indian Winter’ [CD-R] (self-released)
‘O Bummer’ [CD-R] (self-released)
‘Tough Face’ [CD-R] (self-released)
‘Songs Of The Young Sinclairs’ [LP] (Kindercore)
‘We Spoke Our Minds EP’ [CD & 7″] (Planting Seeds)
‘Chimeys’ [LP] (Chimney Sweep)
The Young Sinclairs Tape’ [cassette] (self-released)
‘O Bummer’ [cassette] (Funny Not Funny)
‘Independently Healthy’ compilation EP [7″] (Receptors Music) (contains the song “Canyon”)

The band has been on several tours in the last few years – playing in Athens, GA – along with a Spring 2009 Tour with Australia’s Lovetones. Who was responsible for putting together that particular tour of the east coast?

The tour with The Lovetones actually came about through our friends from the Philadelphia band The Asteroid 4. We had tried to set up a show with the band Spindrift, which is comprised of members of The Asteroid 4, but that hadn’t panned out. But they were really into our music, and stayed in touch with us. So there were some dates on the east coast with The Lovetones that The Asteroid 4 were supposed to open. For some reason, they weren’t able to do it – so they contacted us to see if we were interested. We agreed to do it – so they put us in touch with Rob Campanella, who was playing with The Lovetones on that tour – and we made it happen!

Last summer The Young Sinclairs teamed up The Brian Jonestown Massacre for a highly successful tour. Did you find the sudden jump from playing to hundreds of people to thousands a bit nerve-wracking?

For me, personally, yes – though the most nerve-wracking part was the period right before the tour, the month or two leading up to it. I suffered a complete mental breakdown and was even hospitalized. I was mess at that point in my life. I was an alcoholic, my personal life was in constant turmoil, I was working myself to death at a restaurant – going to work hung-over every day at 8:30 AM, slamming coffee all day to get through the workload, I was overweight, not eating right, still trying to stay up late so I could have band rehearsals, all of this with the pressure of the upcoming tour looming over my head. I was even dipping fucking snuff in my lip! I snapped. I was having constant panic attacks – constantly on the verge of just completely losing it, thinking at any moment I was going to pass out – thinking I was going to have a heart attack. I went to the doctor for a check-up and my blood pressure was through the roof and the doctors are thinking I have a blood pressure problem. Really it was just my nerves – I had just worn them down to nothing. Constant panic. My mental state was negative, I was feeling self-destructive and helpless.

I can tell you truthfully, that summer, I experienced a complete rebirth. I fasted for 3 days and then went on a raw-foods diet for about 4 months. I lost 30 pounds. I started doing yoga. Pretty rock & roll, eh? I stopped drinking alcohol and stopped using any kind of drugs or stimulants. I drank the first beer I’d had in months on that BJM tour out of celebration.

So, actually, when we were on the tour I was feeling really good – healthy and positive. Though I definitely got nervous once we were at that first show in Boston at The Paradise Rock Club and the place is fucking PACKED. I think it was about 800+ people or something, sold out. I’ve never played in front of that many people. But once we walked out on stage, everyone started going mental and screaming and cheering and we played one of the greatest gigs of our lives. After that I think I got used to it. Playing at Webster Hall in New York was pretty crazy though, it was about 1000 people and my guitar was going out of tune – we made it through relatively unscathed though – in fact, I think people liked us!

I got a message the other day from Rob Campanella (Quarter After/The Brian Jonestown Massacre/Lovetones) – he was saying he would love to have the Young Sinclairs – the entire band – do a west coast tour with The Quarter After. Are there any schedule openings to make that tour a reality?

Possibly? I can’t speak for everyone else in the Sinclairs in that regard, but I would love to go out there and play with those guys! We shall see…

Along with playing in The Young Sinclairs you’ve also taken up full membership in fellow Magic Twig bands Rootstone Jug Band and Eternal Summers among a few others. It’s very clear that music occupies a good portion of your time – How do you find time between so many bands + lead your own band? When you’re not playing music do you have a day job?

At this point I don’t have a day job. I have little hustles I do on the side like Ebay and other things – I work with a catering company from time to time. I really enjoy being able to devote all my time and energy to music in one form or another. It can be hard to balance everything and make sure I don’t double-book any dates – but really you’ve got to have your hands in all kinds of different things if you want to make different connections and meet different people. I try to stay diverse and open-minded and lend my abilities where they can be used and appreciated and where I can hopefully even be compensated for them.

You recently have done a lot of live road dates + you have an upcoming national tour with Eternal Summers – with this move, have you joined the band full time including writing and recording with them?

I can’t really say much about that right now. At this point I am just helping my friends out, playing bass guitar and doing some back-up vocals.

Your new solo LP is set to be released – however it’s not an LP of 60’s/Psych inspired indie pop songs but rather an old school rap/hip hop record under the moniker Joneski. How did this project come about?

I’ve been a fan of Rap music since I was 4 or 5. I really started getting obsessed with it when I was in 5th grade, around 1994 or 1995. That was when things were really exciting. Redman, Gangstarr, Wu-Tang, Gravediggaz, Mobb Deep, DAS-EFX, and KRS-ONE videos were on Rap City – I’m from Roanoke, you know, a little hillbilly valley town in the Blue Ridge Mountains so there wasn’t really much Hip Hop going on around me, my main source for that music was TV or just word-of-mouth or just going to the music store and buying a tape or a CD, taking a chance on it – but I really dug the music, being a drummer I loved the beats and that was back when everybody was killing it with the sampling – crate-digging was still an art and people were real creative with their beats and their programming. When I was in 8th grade I got a sampler for Christmas and started making beats – looping things up and putting them together. I had already taught myself how to scratch on a RCA Victor turntable that I’d got from my great-uncle Cleophus. It was one of those big wooden cabinets with the top that lifts up and its got the radio and the turntable down in it. It had a really strong motor so my parents let me scratch on it. I would tear it up on that Victor! I’ve still got it to this day, the needle is broken though. So I was collecting records and making beats and experimenting with samples also trying to do some DJ Shadow type stuff as well as straight-forward Rap shit. It was funny because my relationship with that music was like on again/off again. I would get so into it, like obsessed – then for a while I’d put it to the side and I’d just want to play instruments and sing and do Rock music or whatever. So later on when I was in high school, around my Senior year, I got more into this Hip Hop than I’d ever been before. I was getting nice with my lyrics, rhyming a lot and making beats constantly. Freestyling with my friend Matt Zimmerman in his back room all the time, going out and digging for records, working on beats and trying to perfect my turntable skills. Me and another friend of mine even recorded a few songs with my brother on the reel-to-reel, calling ourselves Audio Sex Universe. I’ve still got those tapes, in fact I still perform a couple of those songs. Well – lo and behold – right before I graduated, I walked away from the music again for whatever reason. Put it on the back-burner and focused on playing “real instruments” and doing my Rock & Roll thing. This pattern repeated itself again a couple times up until recently. Around the time of the BJM tour, coming out of my mental breakdown, I found myself comforted and uplifted revisiting all my favorite Rap LP’s – finding myself hypnotized by those beats and lyrics all over again. So I made an album. It’s been a long time coming – I’ve known I’ve had it in me, I’ve always known that I could make a good Rap record – so I put in the work, I made it and I’m sharing this part of myself with the world and with the universe. And I’m not gonna walk away from that music ever again.

I’ve managed to hear some great new demo you are working on for an upcoming Young Sinclairs release – some of which lean more toward a country rock sound – more Neil Young, Grateful Dead, The Band and perhaps Clarence White era Byrds. Is this the direction you want to take with The Young Sinclairs sound?

Yeah, we’ve got some tunes that are drawing more from that musical well that we’ve been kicking around for a while. We will at some point be putting them down in their definitive form and releasing them on a record. I’ve been writing on piano a lot, so I’m looking to play more keyboards in the Sinclairs. I’m really trying to get John to come out from the drum stool and play guitar as well, because he is a phenomenal guitarist. He’s amazing. We call him “Cutter”. So we’re gonna shuffle the deck and change things up a little bit. Everything grows.

I agree, everything grows for the better! Thanks for spending some time with Parasites & Sycophants Sam – we look forward to all the upcoming projects.

The Young Sinclairs new LP is titled “Don’t Believe In Demos Vol. 1” (Planting Seeds Records) a digital only album – a collection of odds, ends, rarities etc – featuring the first single “Running Kind” – a cover of the classic Merle Haggard track.

The Young Sinclairs “Running Kind” by Planting Seeds Records

The Young Sinclairs’ “Didn’t You Baby” (Philadelphia on Brian Jonestown Massacre Tour)

Also recently reissued via Planting Seeds Records/Magic Twig Community – The Young Sinclairs 2007 debut LP “Feel Bad” featuring the single “Time Is Not Today”

The Young Sinclairs – “Time Is Not Today” by Planting Seeds Records

The Young Sinclairs’ “Left And Right”

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